The St. Luke’s Health System is leading a three-year research study intended to guide suicide prevention efforts in health-care and crisis-hotline settings across the nation.

In 2019, St. Luke’s received a $3.4 million research grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to conduct a suicide prevention research study. The Suicide Prevention Among Recipients of Care—or SPARC—trial will be the largest-ever suicide prevention study in Idaho.

“This study is among the first that focuses on residents of both rural and urban settings and is the first large-scale clinical trial of suicide prevention in the Intermountain West region,” states a St. Luke’s news release. “The SPARC trial will also include a large adolescent population, which is novel in suicide prevention research.”

After a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SPARC trial began offering enrollment in May to patients who show suicidal ideation in emergency department or primary-care settings. The trial compares two evidence-based follow-up interventions to prevent suicidal thoughts and behavior in adults and adolescents.

Health-care providers and staff from 32 St. Luke’s primary-care clinic and emergency department sites across the state are partnering with the SPARC research team to enroll nearly 1,400 patients—approximately 600 adolescents and 800 adults. People who choose to participate in the study will be randomized to receive one of the two follow-up interventions from the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, a partner in the project.

“Since 2012, the hotline has responded to over 78,000 contacts from individuals in distress, so we know the range of emotions a person can experience in a suicidal crisis, as well as how impactful empathetic emotional support can be,” said Jessica Torres, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline project manager for the trial. “This trial will inform how we, and other crisis centers across the nation, can better support individuals experiencing thoughts of suicide.”

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in Idaho for people ages 10-44. Idaho’s suicide rate is 46% higher than the national suicide rate, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Idaho consistently has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

At St. Luke’s Health System, approximately 1,165 patients screened at an elevated risk for suicide in emergency departments and primary-care clinics in August, St. Luke’s stated. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline responded to a record 1,657 contacts from help-seekers during the same month.

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